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Lithuanian farmers’ transition to circular economy

Establishing a container management system in Lithuania would save farmers up to 2 million Euro annually 

As the Minister of Economy and Innovation announced plans to make at least 12% of Lithuania’s economy circular within a few years, the country’s agricultural sector is also aiming for more recycling. It still throws away around 1 million plastic containers used to store plant protection products every year. Meanwhile, in most European countries, farmers rinse, sort and recycle this packaging free of charge. It is estimated that the planned changes in Lithuania would not only have an environmental impact, but could also save farmers up to €2 million annually.

„Around 300,000 kilograms of plastic pesticide packaging waste is generated on Lithuanian farms every year. If properly rinsed and returned for recycling, it would have a huge environmental impact and contribute to Lithuania’s goal of moving towards a circular economy. We have been running a successful pilot project with several Lithuanian farms for several years, but the key goal is a massive change in the country’s agricultural sector,” CropLife Europe Consultant Steven Byrde said during a visit to Lithuania’s national member association CropLife Lietuva last week. During his visit he also met with representatives of the Seimas, the Ministry of Agriculture, the State Plant Breeding Service and those closely involved in the agricultural sector. 

During the meetings, he shared best practices from other countries, discussed industry’s readiness to establish a separate flow system for the handling of packaging of plant protection products in Lithuania and the necessary further decisions. 

Mr Byrde said Lithuania is capable of creating a waste management system like the one, which is used in many European countries, and there is political support for such a change. 

Farmers would also directly benefit from such a system. Although Lithuania has a producer’s responsibility principle, meaning that the cost of waste management is included in the price of the product, farmers have to pay a second time to have their sorted plastic packaging transported from the farm. CropLife Lithuania estimates that if the principle of producer responsibility were properly implemented, farmers would no longer have to pay for the collection of such waste, saving farmers up to €2 million annually.

Prevented by law

Currently, Lithuania is one of the 7 EU countries that still do not have an organised system for the separate collection and management of packaging of plant protection products. 

“The aim is for all EU Member States to have a dedicated system in place for the management of packaging of plant protection products by 2025. France already collects up to 90% of all packaging sold, so we have good practices to share with countries without a system, including Lithuania. In meetings with the agricultural sector and politicians, we have been looking for solutions to overcome regulatory and administrative obstacles,” said Mr Byrde. 

He adds that in Lithuania, there is a general consensus among stakeholders on the need for a system to achieve circularity, so it is important not to get stuck on the details and to see the bigger picture. The first task for the value chain of crop protection products is to raise awareness as much as possible about the importance of proper rinsing and management of packaging, to work with authorities, packaging organizations and waste managers to expand the separate collection of plant protection product packaging and to work with authorities for enabling regulation and enforcement.

“To achieve these goals, all stakeholders need to be involved – industry, institutions, waste managers, NGOs – in informing users and ensuring access to information, and farmers who manage packaging properly need to share good practices with their counterparts who do not yet do so. Only by spreading the word about the importance of packaging management and collecting a significant number of packaging waste will we be able to start building an efficient recycling system in Lithuania”, says Byrde.

Contributing to a more circular economy as part of our 2030 commitments

CropLife Europe recognises our responsibility to contribute to a circular economy for plastics, through our active membership of the European Commission’s Circular Plastics Alliance and our promotion of Container Management Systems as part of a CleanFarms initiative. 

Read more about how we are addressing the plastics waste challenge here